Today, Dr. Webb will be discussing Glaucoma with us.
Dr. Webb, please tell us, what exactly is Glaucoma?
Dr. Webb: It is a plumbing problem. There is a fluid that is constantly being made inside the eye, and then exiting the eye. If too much of the fluid is made, or it is not exiting the properly, then this creates an excess amount of pressure in the eye. This pressure bears down on the optic nerve and causes damage to the nerve. Everybody has a blind spot where the optic nerve attaches to the eye but you don’t notice it because the right eye compensates for the blind spot of the left eye, and the left eye compensates for the blind spot of the right eye.
Once that blind spot gets larger, enough that it is noticeable, then that vision is gone. For this reason, Glaucoma is often called “the thief of vision”. Many people, if they aren’t getting regular eye exams, may not even know this is happening to them, until it is too late and some vision is already lost.
By having the optic nerve looked at, and having the eye pressure taken, on a regular basis, as well as in the front part of the eye, where the iris (the colored part of your eye) and the clear layer over the iris (cornea) meet is called an angle, and sometimes that will either get full of pigmentation from the iris, or may be narrow. This could keep the fluid from exiting out of the eye as well, so it’s important to also look at the angle of the eye.
How does someone get Glaucoma? Did I do something wrong in caring for my eyes? Is it only something older people get?
Dr. Webb: You can get Glaucoma at any age. It’s just a plumbing problem with the eye. As we mentioned above, either the fluid cannot drain properly or is produced in excess. It just happens, it is nothing that anyone could have done or not done to themselves. It’s just a condition that happens in the eye.
It can also be a result of a blow to the eye. Heavy steroid use can also cause Glaucoma.
What if my mother and or father have Glaucoma, does that mean I will get it too?
Dr. Webb: depending on what type of Glaucoma it is. If one or both parents have/had Glaucoma, it could increase your chances of contracting it too, but not necessarily.
Therefore, it is very important to make sure to get regularly checked by your doctor for Glaucoma. All of our comprehensive eye exams include the Glaucoma screenings: checking the eye pressure, optic nerve health, angle of the eye (where the iris and cornea meet). If it does show up during our regular eye exams, it can be treated immediately, before any vision is lost.
Has research shown any indication of who may be more prone to get Glaucoma?
Dr. Webb: African Americans and diabetics seem to be more prone.
How often do you see it? Is this a common eye disease?
Dr. Webb: It is common enough that regular yearly eye exams are necessary for prevention.
What treatments are there for Glaucoma?
Dr. Webb: If someone is diagnosed with glaucoma, there are various treatments available depending on what stage it was caught in. If it is caught in the early stages, we will use eye drops. These eyedrops help reduce production of the fluid, or increase the amount of fluid that is drained by the eye. The drops will need to be taken each day for the duration of the patient’s life.
There is also the option of laser surgery, if someone is terribly bothered by taking drops every day. We usually try to reserve the option of surgery for extreme cases, more advanced stages of Glaucoma. The surgery makes the opening, where the fluid in the eye drains, larger. This allows the eye to drain more easily thus lowering the pressure in the eye.
Again, we want to stress how very important it is to schedule yearly eye exams, so that if we do see signs of Glaucoma, it can be treated immediately, before any vision is lost.